Gulf women drivers reject the idea of removing veil

Updated 22 May 2013

Gulf women drivers reject the idea of removing veil

A proposal to make it illegal to drive vehicles in the Gulf States while wearing the veil could hamper efforts by Saudi women to drive cars in the Kingdom.
The Directors General of the Gulf Cooperation Council, in its 13th meeting on Monday in Jeddah, considered the draft from Gulf traffic departments as part of a larger effort to outline more specific unified traffic violations for all Gulf States.
While the draft is not a blanket ban on the veil, its passage into law would make it illegal for drivers to cover their faces in front of traffic police officers.
The Oman municipal traffic departments initially brought the issue to the GCC’s interior ministries. The proposal, described as the Gulf Traffic Act, specifies the “burqa,” “Algshawh” or "face veil" as illegal attire to wear while driving. GCC Council members tabled the discussion until its next meeting.
If adopted as a uniform law by the GCC traffic departments, the issue may have a significant impact on Saudi women’s attempts to drive cars anywhere in the GCC. But it would in particular affect potential female drivers in Saudi Arabia since a large portion of the female population wear the veil. Saudi women already drive cars in other GCC countries.
While speaking with Arab News, several Saudi women said it's their right to drive a vehicle with or without the veil.
Buhi Mohammed Khalid cultural adviser at Royal Saudi Embassy in UAE said that more than 50 percent women in UAE drive their own cars.
“I myself drive while covering my face; most of the women drivers, I find here, cover their faces, especially the old aged women drivers,” Khalid said.
“Though the youngsters don’t like to cover their faces, most Arab women cover their faces and drive, so it is not possible that they can put any ban on veil while driving.”
Ala’a Mohammed, another driver, said that women have the right to cover themselves.
“In Saudi Arabia we are not allowed to drive at all,” Mohammed said. “For this reason when Saudi women go to any Gulf country or abroad they drive the car. It totally depends on them whether they drive with the veil or without. Putting a ban on it will not be right.”
Khaloud Asmari, a Saudi student, said that traffic departments should look for a solution to this problem, but not put a ban on the veil.
“It will hurt our culture and traditions,” Asmari said. “Many women were riding horses in Prophet’s era, riding on camels, but we are not allowed to drive our own car.”
Abu Ahmed, a Saudi motorist, said it’s wrong for traffic departments to issue traffic violations to veiled women.
“There are a number of benefits of women driving their own cars as they can do their work by themselves instead of paying half of their salary to drivers every month,” Ahmed said.
Among other proposed traffic violations, the GCC would make it illegal to use a speed detection device that warns drivers of law enforcement speed radars. Vehicles that have a large accumulation of dirt that distorts the vehicle’s appearance and reading while drive also would be illegal.
Brig. Saleh Ahmed, head of the delegation for Kuwait, recommended during the meeting that delegates unite the “irregularities” in the GCC countries by monitoring them through an electronic link. He suggested connecting the driver’s licenses, vehicle ownership and technical maintenance and irregularities to eliminate forgeries among all GCC drivers.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to pilot an electronic link between the two countries to monitor traffic violations as the first stage of the process, which will lead to linking all GCC countries if the program is successful.
Traffic accidents in the GCC cost about $ 19 billion annually in losses, representing 3.7 percent of the total global losses.


Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

Updated 17 October 2019

Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

  • Intellectuals, diplomats discuss challenge of blending cultures, faiths and values

RIYADH/JEDDAH: The European envoy to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday called for more tolerance and respect to help bring diverse societies closer together.

Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.

Organized by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS), the event gathered together top intellectuals, diplomats and scholars to debate the issues of tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance of others.

Opening the lecture at the King Faisal Foundation building in Riyadh, d’Urso spoke about tolerance and how it was core to the transformation of societies, especially in Europe which had become more diverse.

“Today’s European society is a mixture of cultures, faiths, values, ideas, and habits. The challenge is to make sure our society is more inclusive, enhance mutual understanding and promote tolerance and respect,” the envoy said.

He pointed to the UN’s blossoming partnership with the KFCRIS and the importance of the lecture as key building blocks in the process of bridging cultural and religious gaps between societies.

“I think there are few more teams that are exchanging on the Saudi and European perspectives of religious tolerance and diversity. All of us know that the KFCRIS builds from the legacy of the late King Faisal and has been a pillar in promoting Islam,” d’Urso added.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.
  • Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.
  • The director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

He noted that in Europe there were many people of faith that had respect for coexistence. 

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.

He said a state that respected others, human existence and brotherhood could not exist “unless there is respect for diversity and differences as a universal norm that no one can collide.”

According to Al-Issa, the Charter of Madinah (regarded as the first Islamic state constitution) was considered one of the best achievements of civil legislation in human history. “This document was held by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, with the Jews and represented binding legislation for Muslims toward religious minorities.”

The MWL chief noted that the document included the protection of civil and religious rights. “The document cannot be absorbed by extremism, it is clear. These rights and freedoms have been preserved by this legislation. And the Prophet Muhammad coexisted with everyone and understood these differences and diversity.”

In his speech, Al-Issa explained how the Qur’an gave Jews and Christians a special name to celebrate their religious origins where they were called “people of the book,” in reference to the Torah and the Gospel. The history of Christians and Jews was also never omitted.

Addressing the event, director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

“We encounter such a diversity of ways of being Muslim from a theoretical, cultural, philosophical, ideological point of view. Any single Muslim group or community is represented somewhere in Europe and this situation puts European Muslims in a very unique environment which is different from any other Islamic majority society in the world,” said Privot.

He pointed out that for the first time in history Muslim groups from Uzbekistan and Senegal were living together and trying to become a community in European societies.

“Societies, which have completely liberalized the market of religions, believe all faiths are accepted,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, an MWL forum in Makkah recommended that Islamic discourse should adhere to the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the Muslims’ uppermost legislative sources, which are also known as the Two Divine Revelations.

The forum, titled “The Service of the Two Revelations,” called upon concerned authorities in the Muslim world to regulate Islamic fatwas in a way that prevented extremism and stopped producing any misguided explanations of the divinely revealed texts.

The participants also encouraged the use of modern technology, especially social media, to better serve the Qur’an and Sunnah to help link Muslim youths with the two revelations.

In addition, the gathering proposed establishing platforms for producing software and smart apps related to the Qur’an and Sunnah and the launch of an international service award under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa added that the MWL had staged a number of Qur’an memorization programs in 78 countries and said there were now 68 colleges and institutes where 7,500 students were studying the Qur’an.

“Some 61,275 Qur’an readers have graduated from these institutes, with 5,055 reciters having obtained authentic reading certificates. The IOQAS (International Organization of Qitab and Sunnah) has also carried out 193 training courses and provided nearly 3,000 scholarships,” he said.